Vale to Pay $7 Billion for One of Worst Ever Mine Disasters

By James Attwood | February 5, 2021

Vale SA reached a settlement agreement with Brazilian authorities for a dam collapse that killed 270 people and led to production cutbacks that stripped the company of the title of world’s biggest iron ore producer.

The deal comes two years after the Brumadinho disaster, giving affected communities a clear framework for compensation and reparations and removing a considerable legal overhang for Vale. Its shares were little changed in Sao Paulo.

Vale will pay 37.7 billion reais ($7.03 billion) including cash payments to affected people and investments in environmental projects, the Rio de Janeiro-based company said in a statement. Vale estimates it will book an additional expense of 19.8 billion reais in 2020 results.

“This is the largest reparation agreement ever signed in Latin America in financial terms and with the participation of the state,” and one of the largest in the world, Minas Gerais said in a statement.

The two sides come together after Vale initially presented a value of about 21 billion reais, while Minas Gerais outlined 28 billion reais in material damages plus 26 billion reais in moral damages.

Vale said about 8,900 people are already parties of civil or labor indemnification agreements, while more than 100,000 have received emergency aid totaling 1.8 billion reais.

With Vale benefiting from high iron ore prices, the Brumadinho settlement isn’t expected to jeopardize any of its investment plans, according to Ativa Investimentos. Iron ore futures climbed 73% last year on strong Chinese demand.

The agreement is about two thirds of the amount initially sought by the courts, “which corroborates a positive negotiation for Vale,” Ativa analyst Ilan Arbetman said. “In addition, its adjusted net debt allows it to dispose of the amounts not provisioned without further complications.”

Vale’s shares extended gains after a trading halt, but then pared the advance. The stock was up 0.2% at 11:24 a.m. local time with the Brazilian benchmark little changed.

In the past year, Vale’s local shares gained 73%, double that of rival Rio Tinto Group. Still, Vale trades at 5.3 times estimated earnings versus Rio Tinto’s 8.8 ratio.

“The agreement removes a key overhang for the stock, which still trades at a discount to peers,” said Leonardo Morales, head of equities at ASA Investments.

About the photo: Residents survey damage after a Vale SA dam burst in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais state, Brazil, on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. A Brazilian judge has blocked 1 billion reais ($265 million) from Vale SA while environmental authorities imposed a $66 million fine on the miner after a tailings dam it owns burst on Friday in the second deadly accident in the same mining region in just over three years.

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